This Earth Day, Havas Group Turkey’s Ergin Binyildiz, Serhan Koçak, and Anıl Süleyman Çınar, tell Dare! about a meaningful project that revived an important natural resource for thousands of migrating birds.
The campaign, The Birds Will Be Back, for Reckitt brand Finish, focused on Kuyucuk lake, a resource with specific value to the United Nations (UN). The lake was a primary stopping point for thousands of migrating birds before it dried up completely two years ago, leaving the inhabitants of the nearby village (of the same name) mourning the birdsong they grew up with.
An ambitious plan was put into place, which gathered experts and poured resources into reversing the situation. The effort has seen the lake revived by more than 40%, so far. Here, Ergin, Chief Creative Officer, Serhan, Creative Group Head, and Anil, Copywriter, explain the project, strategy and compelling storytelling that drew inspiration from the villagers of Kuyucuk to influence change.
This is the third year Havas Turkey has worked with Finish. Was your strategy different this year?
Ergin: Each year we have worked with Finish, we have tried to find new ways to amplify the message and grab the public’s attention. To do that, you need compelling storytelling. You need to craft interesting stories that stick in people’s minds and resonate with them. Without compelling storytelling, you are never going to break people’s habits or encourage them to take action to help the planet. This was the general thinking behind this year’s campaign for Finish.
In our first year, we focused on the stark reality of Turkey’s dried up lakes and riverbeds to wake people up to the problem, because at that point in time, they were indifferent. That first campaign alarmed the nation, but to keep doing that wasn’t sustainable from our perspective. If we continued with that strategy, eventually our audience would turn off their sensors. In our second year, we changed direction, and focused the campaign on hope and how we have the power to change things. This time, we thought, ‘What if we take one of Turkey’s dried up lakes, and revive it?’
Why was this lake a good candidate for the project?
Serhan: We decided on Kuyucuk Lake because before it dried up, it was the only source of water for migrating birds for hundreds of miles. It’s on the path from Siberia to southern parts of the world and was the stopping point for 233 species of birds. At one point in time, more than 40,000 birds were recorded there.
The lake had dried up for a number of reasons, climate change of course, but also because local farmers were using illegal barriers to siphon off water to irrigate their own fields.
It is a very important resource for the people in the nearby village in many ways. They grew up with the sound of birds and over the course of two years, there was suddenly dead silence. This lake was a good candidate for revival and this was the last chance we had to fix it. When more than two years elapses, it is impossible to replenish a lake.
Ergin: For this project Finish collaborated with the government, the local authorities and an NGO to revive the lake. This began with pulling down the barriers and drilling wells. Since the beginning, the lake has been more than 40% revived to its original state.
The media campaign centred around the impact this project had on the villagers of Kuyucuk. Can you tell us about the film you produced?
Anil: When we had the idea to revive the lake, we also had the task of communicating this project to the local community. As a team, we came up with the idea to recreate the sounds of the birds who had been absent from the area for two years, sounds which many of the village’s people very much missed.
Serhan: We wanted to communicate the idea that we all have it inside us to turn things around. A 24-hour-long birdsong soundtrack was developed in collaboration with the community and also wildlife experts and played from the loudspeakers of the village’s two mosques.
As we brought back the sounds of the birds, we filmed people’s reactions, which formed the core message of this year’s campaign. This film was broadcast on Turkish TV, during a popular show called The Miracle Doctor, and we launched an Instagram campaign and a media campaign surrounding the project.
Do you think focusing on Turkish projects for a national audience is more impactful?
Anil: Our campaign’s focus on Turkey, compared to the planet in general impacts Finish’s Turkish audience more. People in Turkey are a lot less worried about the polar bear trapped on the thinning ice than they are about this little lake and village at their own front door.
Serhan: It’s similar to another test we did early on in our work with Finish. When we told people about the massive threat to Turkey’s water sources in the near future, people didn’t respond. When we communicated that this shortage was going to have a direct and dramatic impact on their children, not their great-great grandchildren, but their own kids, they began to respond very strongly.
How do you think Finish’s commitment to the planet compares to its competitors?
Ergin: I think Finish is head and shoulders above the rest. Not just because of what they do, but how they do it. The true commitment they have to the environment as a brand does not compare to the greenwashing efforts we see from others sometimes.
Everyone who worked on this project embarked on it because we believed in the cause. All of us are well-informed and updated. This work for Finish has changed our way of thinking.
Of course, you have to take into account KPIs and how a campaign has impacted a brand and sales – to not think about that isn’t sustainable. But, with these campaigns, we also have to measure our success in terms of the millions of tonnes of water we saved as well. That’s the beauty of them.